It was a rowdy evening in Manchester as freshman 1st District Congressman Frank Guinta addressed a packed house during what was the second of a series of town hall meetings he is holding to discuss his vote in favor of the Budget Control Act, a compromise bill that raised the debt ceiling in exchange for scheduled spending cuts.
The assembled voters were from all across the political spectrum but seemed to agree on two items: general frustration with Washington, and appreciation that Guinta was taking the time to address their concerns.
The dialogue did get heated at moments, but most of the sparring occurred between audience members, with Guinta striving to stay above the fray and using his opening remarks to set a respectful tone: “I believe that as your representative I need to represent you with a calm, cool, and collected dignified approach.”
Guinta, the former two-term Manchester mayor who boasted significant support from Tea Party groups in a closely contested Republican primary and subsequent victory over incumbent Democrat Carol Shea-Porter, has faced some friendly fire from elements within his own party in the weeks since the vote, including the threat of a primary challenge. Guinta and 2nd District Congressman Charlie Bass split from their fellow Granite State Republican, Sen. Kelly Ayotte, on the Budget Control Act vote.
Raucous town hall meetings are nothing new to the 1st District; Shea-Porter held some legendarily contentious events surrounding the federal health care reform legislation.
The more vocal attendees were spilt between those on the right who felt the debt deal did not include deep enough spending cuts, and those on the left who wanted to see tax increases for the wealthy and heavy reductions in defense spending.
In response to a questioner who advocated raising taxes, Guinta defended his no-tax-hikes pledge, citing inequities in the tax code and inefficiencies in how the government spends taxpayer funds. “I don’t believe that our problem in this country is that we don’t receive enough money from taxpayers,” he said, ”I think we have a problem with how we spend it.”
Throughout the discussion, Guinta sought to empathize with constituents’ woes, citing his own disappointment with the debt ceiling process, but at the same time maintaining an optimistic outlook. “I believe our country is going to get through the challenges we face,” he said, “I am confident of that.”
Video highlights from the event:
Author’s Note: I take full responsibility for the terrible quality of the above video, largely due to excessive Tweeting while attempting to use a handheld camera. -Amelia Chassé